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Attacks and fear for displaced persons in Chad
December 18, 2006
The team has just brought Yakoub in by car to the small hospital set up by MSF at Dogdoré, a village of 3,000 inhabitants less than 30 km from the Sudanese border. It was the technician working at the pumping station set up by MSF in the nearby wadi—river—who drew attention to the incident. "Assailants arrived and hit the old man several times while he was working in his field," says Ousmane. "This morning, we heard that they had also kidnapped seven young girls near the river. They came back in the evening and set about the old man."
The lack of security along the wadi exacerbates conditions of life that are already very precarious for the 15,000 displaced persons installed in a makeshift camp in a scorching plain on the outskirts of Dogdoré. For them, as for the locals, the river, which flows during the rainy season and disappears as the dry season begins, is the center of intense activity: women use it to bathe children and to wash their laundry; herds of goats, cattle, and camels come to drink; various crops are cultivated along the fertile banks. "This morning, at the river, my sister and mother were whipped by armed men," says a displaced woman who arrived in the camp last January. "They came with their camels, ruined the tomato shoots that the women were planting and then proceeded to beat them."
Having fled from the attacks of bandits, rebels, and various militia in their own village, the displaced people all betray a fear of further violence as they tell their stories. The men no longer dare to venture out of the camp and the women, on whom the very fragile survival economy depends, are also fearful of attacks. No longer having any access to their own land, the camp families survive laboriously on the meager returns from the sale of wood and straw collected in the bush at the Dogdoré market,. "If we can no longer leave the camp, I don't know how we are going to be able to feed our children," says another worried woman. She shows a sack of millet, two thirds empty, that constitutes the last of her family's supplies. While MSF's medical consultations have not revealed any increase in malnutrition, there is considerable fear that the situation will deteriorate.
"Dogdoré has seen its population increase more than five-fold. The violence means that displaced people do not dare return to their fields even though we are now at the height of the harvest season. Moreover, aid organizations are completely absent. No distribution of food has been made to these people," says Claudine, the field doctor in charge of the MSF program. MSF is the only organization currently operational in the zone. At the hospital, Yakoub has been "stabilized" by the medical team: his head wound has been stitched and his hand is in a splint. Tomorrow, MSF will transfer him to the hospital in Goz Beida—five hours away over difficult tracks—where he will undergo a more complex surgical procedure.